Manchester United’s Europa League hopes are in jeopardy after conceding two own goals and losing a defender to a serious-looking injury in the final six minutes against Sevilla. United appeared to be coasting to a quarter-final first-leg victory at Old Trafford after Marcel Sabitzer’s first-half double, but after Antony had hit the crossbar, Sevilla came back into the contest and profited from a terrible ending to the game for Erik ten Hag’s men. First, Tyrell Malacia diverted the ball past David de Gea after Jesus Navas had pulled a low cross back from the goalline. Then, two minutes into injury time, Youssef En-Nesyri’s off-target header struck Harry Maguire to leave De Gea helpless as it flew into the net.
Serious injury for Lisandro Martinez
The loss of Lisandro Martinez is a major concern, particularly as Raphael Varane had to be replaced at half-time. Martinez had to be carried from the field and left for the dressing room on a stretcher in obvious pain after catching his foot in the turf with no opponent near him. The Argentine has been a rock at the heart of United’s defence this season, and given the clear pain he was in as he sat sadly by the touchline waiting to be carried to the dressing rooms, there must be huge uncertainty over when he will play again, which could place his side’s season under a threat that previously did not seem to exist.
Anthony Martial revindicates himself with a great performance
If there is some comfort to be taken from a night that ended so badly, it came from the performance of Anthony Martial. Ten Hag quoted “stats” in the build-up to the game when he said United were a better team with the Frenchman in it. Martial’s contribution to Sabitzer’s second goal emphasised why. Collecting the ball inside the Sevilla half, Martial took his time, created some space, then delivered a perfect through ball. Immediately after he scored, Sabitzer pointed to Martial in grateful acknowledgement.
However, having opted against replacing Marcus Rashford when his side were two goals up against Everton at the weekend and seeing the England man get injured, it was probably not a surprise when United boss Erik ten Hag took off key man Bruno Fernandes, plus Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial after an hour. At that point, United had a healthy advantage, with Sabitzer profiting from excellent through balls from Fernandes and Martial. Ten Hag presumably reasoned it was a wise option not to take a risk with so many big games to come, knowing Fernandes is banned for the second leg anyway after he picked up another yellow card. But the decision allowed Sevilla to gain some momentum, and United’s goal came under threat, eventually resulting in their lead disappearing.
Ten Hag has praised Wout Weghorst for his contribution, but the on-loan Burnley forward is not in the same class. The United boss felt his side should have scored “three or four” but also conceded they were unlucky with injuries and the two late own goals. “We have to learn and have to kill the game, but everything is open,” he added on BT Sport.
Overall, Manchester United’s disastrous end to the game against Sevilla leaves their Europa League hopes hanging in the balance, with the loss of Martinez adding to the injury woes of the team. Meanwhile, Martial’s impressive performance offers some hope for the future, and Ten Hag must rethink his substitutions and strategies to ensure that the team secures their place in the semi-finals.